Hans Hopf studied with the distinguished bass Paul Bender and made his operatic stage debut in 1936 as Pinkerton / Madama Butterfly with the Bayerische Landesbühnen, a touring opera company. Between 1939 and 1944 he sang as a lyric tenor in Augsburg, Dresden and Oslo, where he was a member of the German Theatre while continuing his studies with Ragnvald Bjarne.
After World War II ended Hopf began singing heroic roles, moving between Berlin and Dresden. From 1949 he was a member of the ensemble of the Munich State Opera and began to appear frequently with the Vienna State Opera. He was a regular guest with the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, serving Düsseldorf and Duisburg, from 1950 until 1976. Hopf made his debut at the Bayreuth Festival under Karajan in 1951 as Walther / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and sang in the historic performance (to mark the reopening of the Festival after its post-war closure) of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 ‘Choral’, under Furtwängler. He returned to Bayreuth for Siegfried in the cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen given between 1960 and 1964, as well as the title roles in Tannhäuser (1965– 1966) and Parsifal (1966) and Froh in Das Rhinegold (1964). At the Salzburg Festival Hopf sang Max / Der Freischütz, again with Furtwängler conducting, in 1954.
Hopf’s debut at the Royal Opera House, London was as Radamès in an English-language production of Aida in the spring of 1951. He returned to sing the same role during the 1951–1952 season, as well as Walther (under Beecham) which he repeated (with Krauss conducting) in the summer of 1953. He first appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, New York as Walther in early 1952, singing Parsifal the same season. He returned to the Met to sing the title role in Lohengrin, as well as Walther, in the 1952–1953 season (repeating Walther in 1954). In the early 1960s Hopf also undertook Tannhäuser and Siegfried in several Ring cycles; his final Met appearances were as the Götterdämmerung Siegfried in late 1963.
During the later part of his career Hopf’s international performances were widely spread. He appeared as Florestan in the 1958 Fidelio at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires under Beecham, returning to participate in the Ring under Heinz Wallberg in 1962; and sang also in Zürich, Geneva, Florence, Naples, Rome, Amsterdam, Monte Carlo, Stockholm, Barcelona, Lisbon, Mexico City, Moscow and Rio de Janeiro. His debut at La Scala, Milan came in 1963, as Siegfried.
At Chicago in 1968 and San Francisco in 1974 Hopf sang Herod / Salome, on each occasion opposite Astrid Varnay as Herodias. Another notable late performance was Tristan / Tristan und Isolde under Carlos Kleiber at the Vienna State Opera in 1973. Among Hopf’s other significant roles were the title role in Otello and the Emperor / Die Frau ohne Schatten.
One of the last true heldentenors, Hopf possessed a sonorous middle range and an always reliable, metallic top that carried well. His voice was the type preferred by Wagner: a tenor with a baritone-like timbre. With his impulsive style of performance, he was capable of making an impact both stirring and moving.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).